Sunday, September 29, 2013

minor details

“Hurry up, where are your shoes? Get your shoes on. We’re walking out the door…now. Jesus Christ, where is your backpack? You walked out of the house without your backpack? C’mon, why are you walking so slow? Did you even brush your hair? It’s too late now. Hurry up.”

It is Wednesday morning. We must leave our house early to get flowers for school.

“Stop yelling or no one will get to help. This doesn’t require crying. Why are you crying? We do this every week. If she does it this week, then you get to next week. I don’t care whose turn it is or whose turn it was last week, just figure it out. Damn it, where the fuck am I gonna park?”

“Unbuckle now. Get out of the car. Fast, fast. Go, go. C’mon. Jesus Christ, shut the door.”

After some deliberation, middle daughter concedes to younger sister. Pixie sticks may have been involved.

Meanwhile, youngest is planning. Each week we receive a large bucket of flower bouquets for school use. The girls like to give individual flowers to school staff; what they vied for in the car. I deposit the bucket on the table in the teachers’ lounge. My arms practically exhale with relief. Youngest is leisurely deciding which color the librarian would like best, contemplating what type of flower the custodian would enjoy. Would the music teacher mind if she and the art teacher both got Gerbera daisies, because they-the Gerberas and teachers-are favorites right now? She is scrutinizing petals for flaws. I see us circumnavigating the entire building delivering flowers and wonder when I will get to work.

“C’mon. You done? Let’s go. No, no. Four is enough. No, don’t grab it like that-it’ll break the head off. You just wasted that flower. What were you thinking? No, next time you can pick other teachers. I gotta get to work.”

As we walk down the hall, the computer teacher comments about the flowers. I sense my daughter hesitate. She feels compelled to share but computer teacher wasn’t on the list. At least today. We walk on. Youngest finds the teachers she is seeking and gives them each their thoughtfully selected flower. They respond kindly, warmly, with gratitude. She beams. It occurs to me she feels pride in sharing these flowers. When we get to her classroom she gives me a tremendous hug, her taut little body expressing what words do not.

I realize I’ve been a jackass.

I have been uneasy since my last post. Without suggesting alternatives, I was critical of the environmental and perhaps psychological ramifications of enrichment opportunities parents provide children. And here I had a morning of enrichment opportunities with my daughters.

Did rushing through the flower distribution dampen youngest daughter’s delight? By my impatience, did I give the message that her experiences matter less than Mom’s schedule? I feel remorse at the quick ‘I love you’ I gave middle daughter before she headed to class alone. I wonder if those three little words seemed hollow after what she’d heard from me for the last 10 minutes. I had even forgotten to thank her for compromising. How could I be so foul with them but smiling and polite to others?

Through how I interacted with my daughters, I had the chance to teach planning, patience, grace, compromise, reciprocity, gratitude, trust. Instead I was so preoccupied with my agenda I modeled angst and impatience over minor things. 

Life with children is nothing but these sort of minor details. All day. It is something to be grateful for; parenting is a constant enrichment opportunity. Daily I am tasked with learning to respond to minor details graciously, in ways that enrich my children.

As much as I’d like to, for environmental reasons, I’m not recommending we all stop shuttling our kids to soccer or choir or pottery class. I’m suggesting that in our effort to provide what we think we’re supposed to be providing, we consider the meta-learning (or teaching) that will shape how they engage their world.